My first flight in an Alpha

I found out recently that Chris had gone up in an Alpha so I was moping around the Waikato Aero Club on a fine Sunday afternoon proclaiming that I must have been the only club member not to have gone up in an Alpha when CPL Student Jason got sick and tired of my rambling and offered to take me up for a few circuits. I of course jumped at the chance.

As you can see, the Alpha 160 is a fairly tight squeeze for a man of my dimensions but once I was inside and the canopy was closed it wasn't that claustrophobic at all. This was because of the fighter-esque visibility from the bubble canopy. Its much like you are sitting on the plane rather than in it, but the 5 point aerobatic harness means you are securely fastened to the plane.

I was a little apprehensive at first because my legs were blocking full aileron deflection but Jason put the stick into what he called "a max rate turn" position and it wasn't blocking off the circulation in my leg like I had thought it might. We started up and after receiving clearance taxied over to the runup area for Grass 36. I noted the ride was fairly similar to that of an Archer with the oleo type undercarriage bumping and crashing as we crawled over the uneven grass taxiway.

After a fairly simple runup and pretake off check, we lined up and off we went. The takeoff roll was about what I'd expect for an aircraft of that weight to do, once we got airborne it climbed strongly away. The cockpit nose was surprisingly loud, but not that much louder than I'm used to. Once Jason had us downwind and trimmed the Alpha was rock solid, which I had expected with its thick chord slab wings and generous dihedral. The visibility makes circuits a breeze, you can scan in any direction (except below the wings of course) with relative ease, and its reassuring to be able to scan through a turn without having to constantly clear the A pillar.

We were on finals and it comes down very similar to an Archer, the best way to land them is to be thinking a long way ahead of the plane and ease the throttle back accordingly.

The next time around the circuit I asked Jason to demonstrate a glide approach so he requested one and we were approved. The Alpha has a rather fast glide (best glide speed is 80 knots) and we came down real fast. In the turn to finals I noticed we were descending at 1000 feet per minute. We came in quite fast and drifted along in ground effect so Jason was forced to go around. I asked for a flapless final landing and Jason said they are easy, so I asked him to make it a precision approach as well. He then asked me if I was considering doing a CPL/C Cat Instructor rating because I sounded like his instructors.

He made a nice flapless landing and we taxied back to the tiedown area.

After thanking Jason for the flight I mused over the experience as I walked back to the Clubrooms. I decided that I wouldn't pursue a rating in them because I already have ratings in 2 different 4 seater types which give me access to 4 different aircraft in the Aero Clubs fleet. Maybe at a future stage I'll get rated in the Arrow but thats at least another 40 hours PIC time in the Archer before they'll let me fly it so there's no hurry. Even further down the track there's the Twin Comanche if I really feel like torturing myself and my wallet.


Chris Nielsen said…
Nice! I also don't want a rating yet in the Alpha, looking forward to my Arrow rating - haven't thought far enough forward to even think of getting a twin rating